The Pianist (2003) Here's a Holocaust survival story that hinges less on heroics than on luck and coincidence: Polish radio star Wladyslaw Szpilman, an acclaimed musician, was plucked…
Video Review

The Pianist (2003)

MPAA Rating: R
Adrien Brody, The Pianist, ... | LAST MAN STANDING Brody is a soulful survivor in war-torn Warsaw
LAST MAN STANDING Brody is a soulful survivor in war-torn Warsaw
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: May 27, 2003; Movie Rated: R; Genre: Drama; With: Adrien Brody; Distributor: Focus Features

Here's a Holocaust survival story that hinges less on heroics than on luck and coincidence: Polish radio star Wladyslaw Szpilman, an acclaimed musician, was plucked from a death-camp train by an acquaintance, hidden by members of the Polish resistance, and spared by a music-loving German officer, and thus outlasted the horrors of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Far from diluting The Pianist's power, the sheer arbitrariness of Szpilman's deliverance provides a chillingly clear-eyed, if ultimately hopeful, vision of how tenuous survival can be. That the film is based on Szpilman's memoir and was directed by Roman Polanski, himself a survivor of the Kraków ghetto, gives it an unquestionable authenticity as it particularizes a monstrous historical event.

As Szpilman, Academy Award winner Adrien Brody has the grace to convey without sentimentality or self-pity the utter pathos of a man of culture reduced to a wild-eyed scarecrow. And while his -- and, presumably, Polanski's -- diffidence may at times mute the film's emotions, its unflinching view of this one unlikely triumph is a moving reminder of just how rare it was.

Originally posted May 30, 2003 Published in issue #712 May 30, 2003 Order article reprints